One of the most important skills you can learn to be successful as an entrepreneur is how to be a “people person.” You cannot become massively successful all on your own, even if you consider yourself a solopreneur. You need the support of the right mentors, clients, customers, employees, contractors, family and friends to succeed.
You need to be able to inspire and persuade the people around you, and communicate your passion and vision. Being an effective communicator is not just about how articulate you are, though that’s important — it’s also about how well you connect with people and the relationships you can form.
I’m fortunate because I’ve always loved people and loved working with them. But I know being a people person is not natural to many entrepreneurs, and attracting the right people may not come easy either. Fortunately, “being good with people” is a skill you can learn (and need to learn) if you want to be successful. Here are some people skills you might want to improve:
As entrepreneurs, we’re often so filled with our own ideas, goals, visions and excitement that we end up talking a lot more than listening. But as Richard Branson wrote, “Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak.”
When we truly listen, we gain new perspectives from others who’ve had different life experiences and see the world differently than we do. We need to listen to truly hear as opposed to listen to respond. Listening to customers or our customer service representatives can give us insight into what’s working and what’s not. Listening to our employees or contractors can help us improve our systems and tweak our strategies.
People who are not great listeners often focus their attention on forming the response they plan to make, rather than focusing on what the other person is trying to say. Great listeners focus on trying to fully understand the message. They ask questions rather than immediately giving their reaction to what was said. They let the other person fully express whatever they’re saying rather than cutting them off. They don’t multitask while someone is speaking, and instead show sincere interest in what the other person is saying. This kind of listening takes a little time and patience, but it’s well worth it.
Building rapport involves stepping into the other person’s shoes as well as letting them know you understand them. In negotiation, this would mean that they can feel that you’re on the same side of the table, that your aim has good outcomes for both of you. When you build good rapport with employees or contractors, they know you understand their strengths, weaknesses and needs, and that you’re all working from the same playbook for the same goals and outcomes.
How do you build rapport? Great listening is a strong start. You can also subtly enter into the other person’s universe by matching your physiology to theirs. For example, you can slow yourself down if they move and speak more slowly. You can soften your voice if theirs is soft or lean forward or back in your seat depending how they are leaning. You can even match your breathing and energy to theirs. On a subtle level, they’ll begin to feel comfortable that you’re similar in nature to them and feel they can trust you.
Assume the best
Since the 1960s, psychologists have done dozens of studies on the effects of expectation on performance. In school settings and work settings, the research consistently finds that if you have low expectations of someone — assuming that they’re not smart, insincere or incompetent — they will perform poorly. But if you have high expectations, they will typically perform much better, even if they have the same aptitude as those who performed poorly.
By assuming the best in them, your employees and contractors will be motivated to work their best. When you assume your customers will love what you have to offer, they tend to feel more positive about it. If you assume that a client or employee is sincere when they present a problem, it so much easier to find a resolution than it is if you assume they’re just whining. Assuming the best of people is the highest form of respect, and everyone wants to feel respected.
These skills apply to everyone around you: your children, your spouse, your investors, your customers and the team you work with. Practice using them in all areas of your life and you’ll find that everyone around you will be eager to support you on your road to massive success.